June 14 marks the day I picked-up my Model S in 2013. People often ask me if I still like the car? Have I had any problems? Would I buy another one?
Yes, I still love my car. Everyday it is a joy to drive for all the reasons that have been expounded thousands of times over by Model S owners like me. The item that was somewhat concerning to me prior to owning one was the battery, or batteries in this case. Would it keep taking a charge quickly? Would it lose power or discharge faster over time? I have noticed nothing that would lead me believe that there has been any degradation in the battery at all.
My car charges as fast as it every has, and I’ve charged it almost every day since I drove it home. It carries me reliably along the displayed range of miles and the acceleration still produces that wide Tesla grin. In short it has exceeded by durability test, at least so far.
I do find it to be a big car and the turning radius is wide, which means you have to be careful in narrow parking ramps or in tight traffic spots. And no you can’t really have the same kind of fun if you wish to take a road trip, despite all those Superchargers and the recent installation of range anxiety features now built into to the software. But I’m a careful driver and I tend to get on a commercial jet liner for my trips, so I didn’t buy the Supercharger option.
On the service side, here’s what I’ve had done.
The windshield washer jets that squirt solvent on the windshield were aligned too low, not allowing the wipers to do a thorough job of cleaning. I took it into the Highland Park service center and they made an adjustment that fixed the problem. They also performed some minor service bulletin work related to minor creaking here and there. No charge.
One day I returned home from work and plugged in car. There are lights that display around the car charging input plug to tell you the mode of the charge. Blue means preparing for charge, green means it’s charging normally and amber means there is a problem and the car is not charging. No matter how often I plugged and unplugged the cord or wiggled it around when in, the amber light would not go away. They sent a technician to my home the next morning who determined that I had a faulty power cord. He replaced it and I’ve had no problem since then. No charge.
Chicago winters are harsh. Cold, ice and snow are frequent, so having a good windshield defroster is critical. I found the Model S was not doing a good job at diffusing the heat evenly across the width of the front glass. Same service center swapped out the deflector on the dash with one that had a different vent pattern. Problem solved, no charge.
Lastly, I have heard that paying attention to tire rotation is important on the Model S. When I reached 6,000 miles I called the service center. They came to my place of work, picked-up the car, performed the rotation, cleaned the car and returned it before my work day was over. Again no charge.
That’s the extent of my need for service. No cash outlay and no inconvenience. They either came to me or I went in when it fit my schedule.
The Tesla Model S is not for everyone, but it is for me. If fits my aesthetic, my love of technology and design. It also feels good to support a company trying to do something completely different from everyone else in the car industry. Detroit, et. al. have no doubt been building tech into their cars for a while, but they user interface is a mess. They will learn from Tesla and improve their cars, not because they fear Tesla, but because they will realize that they can do better.
Having hit 6,000 miles on my Model S it was time for a tire rotation. I called the Highland Park service center. The person who answered the phone said they were very busy and could they get back to me later on. Not long thereafter I received an email that offered me several dates available for the service request. I countered with a different date. The reply came quickly and indicated that day would be fine. They would valet my car to the service center, perform the tire rotation and return it to me.
From that initial phone call they captured my cell phone number and matched it to my information on file. They knew my home address and had already lined up potential service bulletins that might apply to my specific car.
Exactly at 8:30 am last Saturday, as promised, my doorbell rang. My car was driven away and I went on with some gardening chores I was looking forward to doing. About three hours later my iphone rang. They were all done and leaving the service center.
In less than twenty minutes my Model S entered my driveway and was driven directly into my garage, exactly where I park it. The gentleman who drove it emerged from the car, plugged it in and handed me the key.
The tire rotation had been performed along with a couple other minor updates. My Model S had been vacuumed and hand washed, including tire shine. All of this at NO charge.
I’ve had dozens, perhaps a hundred or more service experiences with other car makers. None of them, absolutely not one compared to the experience Tesla provided.
Tesla continues to get things right. They’re not perfect, but in ten short years they have an amazing product and it seems they have the energy and determination to keep advancing.
On December 20th Tesla opened their largest service center in the Midwest right here on the North Shore, Highland Park, Illinois. I visited the center yesterday and Evan gave me the full tour. This facility will serve as a showroom, sales, a delivery site for lucky new Model S owners and of course service. It also has 4 Superchargers on the south side of the building for 24/7 free charging of your Model S.
When you think about service for your gas car it means regular oil changes, periodic maintenance and of course those times when something is wrong and you have to take your car in. I would be the first to say that today’s gas car dealer service experience has improved significantly over the last ten years. Clean, comfortable surrounds for waiting, better explanation of services and fairly accurate time estimates on when your car will be ready to get back on the road.
Model S service is a very different animal all together. The facility is super clean with the floors, walls and ceiling painted white. That’s how they started the work on the Fremont, California factory. Painting everything white. Since the cars don’t use oil or gas, the environment appears to be more like a lab than a garage. There are no exhaust fumes to deal with so the doors can be kept closed which means less cool or warm air being wasted. The guys that service the car are technicians, not mechanics because software management is a big part of the work that might be done. Growing up the nickname for mechanics was “grease monkey” because these guys had to crawl all around inside the hood and under the vehicle and emerged covered in gas, oil and grease. Probably the dirtiest a Tesla tech will get is when he rotates the tires. Each service visit ends with a full, free charge of the battery pack so you can roll out in style.
There is an inherent challenge in owning a Model S. If you do need service, you will have to take it to Tesla. It’s comforting to see they are taking service after the sale seriously.
Tesla is striving to be a very different car company. They are working to make money on the sales of the car, not on financing or service. This at the root of why many traditional car dealers are trying to block sales of Teslas in their state. If the paradigm shifts that significantly, the business model will be disrupted, causing a major overhaul for many of the players along the way.